The vile load: SIU sheds light on R5 billion PPE corruption probes

The SIU is digging deep into the rot behind lucrative contracts for PPE.
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The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is probing 658 cases of possible corruption related to government procurement of Covid-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) worth more than R5bn.

This was disclosed by SIU head advocate Andy Mothibi and his team during a meeting with parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) on Wednesday.

In its report on alleged PPE corruption, the SIU said it was probing a number of provincial departments and municipalities across the nine provinces, including six national departments, for questionable contracts worth R5,083,478,584.

Mothibi and his team indicated that the government of Gauteng accounted for the bulk of the questionable expenditure on Covid-19 goods such as masks, hand sanitisers and gloves, with 157 cases worth R2.2bn.

Allegations of PPE corruption have been the subject of intense public scrutiny after it emerged that a company owned by Thandisizwe Diko, the husband of presidential spokesperson Khusela Diko, had received a contract to supply PPE to the Gauteng health department under questionable circumstances.

This led to the presidential spokesperson and Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku, who are family friends, stepping aside from their jobs as they attempt to clear their names.

There have also been revelations that other politically connected individuals allegedly benefited from PPE corruption across all provinces, including family members of top ANC leaders such as the party’s secretary-general, Ace Magashule, and its head of elections, Nomvula Mokonyane.

Leonard Lekgetho, a member of Mothibi’s team, told MPs that the 658 cases under the microscope included allegations published in the media.

Lekgetho said the allegations they were investigating included leaking bid documents, appointing suppliers outside the central supplier database, and companies set up in the middle of the pandemic.

The probes include 90 companies enlisted to procure PPE and 30 more to supply medical equipment in Gauteng, the R10m scooter saga in the Eastern Cape, and a R740m contract to lease 55,000 tablets for pupils by the education department in that province.

The Western Cape education department was also under investigation for alleged PPE corruption and mismanagement worth almost R112m.

Lekgetho said at national level they were probing:

  • The department of employment and labour in relation to the disbursement of UIF funds;
  • The department of water and sanitation for irregularities related to the distribution of 17,000 water tanks; and
  • The department of public works for splurging R40m on a porous 40km fence on the Beitbridge border.

“In national departments, we’re looking at irregular processes which were followed, and awarding of contracts to friends and families of officials,” said Lekgetho.

“We’re also looking at UIF, supply of water tanks to schools, and in terms of infrastructure installation we’re looking at the Beitbridge border post.”

Mothibi said they wanted the investigations to be concluded swiftly, and to make this possible they had reprioritised the allocation of resources within the SIU to ensure all provinces had the skills and capacity to conduct thorough investigations.

He said they ultimately wanted those caught on the wrong side of the law to be criminally charged in terms of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and other applicable laws.

“Of course we must prosecute all criminal matters, but there’s a criminal offence that the PFMA creates and the Municipal Finance Management Act creates, and we would like to see prosecution in terms of financial mismanagement,” he said.

Scopa chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said the rampant looting of billions of rands meant to save lives during the pandemic was “totally unacceptable and unforgivable”.

He said they would be seeking regular updates from the SIU.

By Thabo Mokone

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